Three City Council members decided the fate of Monrovia's April elections Thursday, voting 3-0 to move forward with the elections after more than a dozen residents gave impassioned speeches both for and against putting two open council seats to a vote.
The council decided not to re-appoint Larry Spicer to former Councilman Clarence Shaw's now vacant council seat earlier in the special meeting Thursday and Mayor Mary Ann Lutz abstained from voting on the status of the election because she is on the ballot. That left the decision in the hands of Councilman Tom Adams, Councilwoman Becky Shevlin and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Garcia.
Several residents argued during public comment that the election would be a waste of time and money since only two candidates--Larry Spicer and Alexander Blackburn--are running for two open council seats. The election will cost the city about $53,000 to put on, according to a city agenda report.
But the three deciding council members each felt that canceling the election would cheat the voters out of an opportunity to choose their representatives.
"I’ve never considered elections to be expensive. I’ve considered elections to be priceless," Adams said. "I think it would be wrong for us to take your right to vote away from you."
Shevlin and Garcia concurred.
"The opportunity to vote is so precious," Shevlin said. "As much as I'd like to save that money, I can't do it."
"You can't put a price on democracy," Garcia added.
The decision will allow write-in candidates to campaign for office and several residents have expressed interest in doing so.
One thing nearly everyone agreed on was that Shaw's resignation was poorly handled and the source of what Shevlin called a "horrible mess." Shaw's abrupt resignation drew rancorous comments from residents and council members alike who blamed him for undermining the possibility of a contested election in April.
Adams, who has accused Shaw of pretending to run to help Spicer get elected, shied away from discussing Shaw's intentions Thursday, saying only that the former councilman's actions were conducted under a "cloud of dishonesty."
Lutz opened the meeting with a short speech scolding Adams for his public remarks about Shaw and Spicer, calling them "disingenuous."
Though the election will continue as planned on Apr. 9, the composition of the council could change before then. The council voted to delay action on replacing Shaw's council seat, meaning the city will move forward with four council members until at least March when the council could decide to re-appoint Spicer.